Oppenheimer describes, in this salty memoir, her long career as a radio book reviewer, literary agent, lecturer and author (The Articulate Woman). Growing up in Dallas's small Jewish community in the early part of the century, Oppenheimer began her love affair with literature in childhood, and it was strengthened during the time she spent as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago during the 1930s, when she reviewed books for local newspapers. Opinionated and irreverent, she expresses her disgust at the current trend toward sex and horror of books published today. She also feels that the East Coast literary establishment is unappreciative of Western authors, and she attacks the concept of "regional writing" as snobbish. She dislikes the work of many renowned novelists, such as John Updike, Philip Roth, William Faulkner and James Joyce, but she has high praise for Louis L'Amour, Wallace Stegner and Toni Morrison. Included is some poetry and a short story written by Oppenheimer. For devotees of her radio shows, this memoir is literate, occasionally gossipy fun.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The first sentence of Evelyn Oppenheimer's A Book Lover in Texas promises humor and vitality and passion. "Listen!" I said to my husband and read the sentence to him. And "Listen!" I said again and again as i read through this fine manuscript. Writing with humor and intelligence, Oppenheimer becomes a poet, an agent, an essayist and a reviewer. Any one of these attest to the rare intelligence that was evidenced throughout her Dallas education and which blazed forth at the University of Chicago.
Oppenheimer is most poetic when she writes about the natural world, calling these all too few passages digressions. In these pages the pace slows; sound and sense come together. Reading her lyrical description of a mountain tree I recall Dorothy Wordsworth's Journals, and know that here, too, the reader has encountered the heart and mind of a poet.
As an essayist, she comments on literature, on writers and , astringently, on writers who read from their work. She scoffs at the idea of "regional" writing, and thourghtfully, succinctly, tells why. Her dispassionate, logical passages about the modernity of Shakespeare sent me to my own bookshelves to find and to savor again some favorite passages in Lear. At times, her opinions about writers astonish, so accustomed are we to reviewers who tiptoe around major faults in a work with lukewarm praise as if afraid that a negative but honest criticism would "step on a crack, break your mother's back." While one may disagree with her opinions of these writers, one applauds her honesty. There is nothing mean-spirited about her criticism; it never says, "Look at me! See how cleverly, satirically I can write." And when she likes a work, she is unreserved with her praise.
She has written books-books as varied as one would expect from such an intellect: a children's book, biographies, histories, texts, and now, this memoir. These speak to her ability as a book writer far better than I could.
Oppenheimer was the first and, for some time, the only agent in Texas. Her anecdotal stories about agenting make one realize that success in writing owes something to luck as well as craftsmanship.
Evelyn Oppenheimer's career as a reviewer is without parallel. When she had finished her first oral review, she listened to other reviewers and then she carefully redefined the purpose of the oral review and began. As a reviewer she came to know the famous and near famous who visited Dallas. Her stories about personalities are sometimes funny, often dramatic, always lively. Spanning five decades, she has been read and heard, especially the latter, all over the southwestern part of the United States. While many do not know her face, her style and her voice are cozily familiar to readers and listeners.
Oppenheimer is treasured by bookstores and bookwriters and bookreaders, by librarians and publishers and academics. "Listen!" her book tells us all. And we do. We are. We listen to this woman, this Dallas treasure.
-FROM THE INTRODUCTION
-Jane Roberts Wood
author of The Train to Estelline, A Place Called Sweet Shrub, Dance a Little Longer and Editor of Out of Dallas: 14 Short stories.